Simply Affogato.

Simply Affogato | cafecarlson.comAffogato. So simple and always delicious, it is literally gelato drowned in a shot of espresso.

Years ago, before we took our first trip to Italy I had an affogato in the U.S. and I’ve never forgotten it. Hot & cold, bitter & sweet- it was the perfect mid-afternoon pick me up!

I thought for sure it was an Americanized dessert pretending to be Italian. But while living and traveling in Italy I saw (and tasted) them everywhere we went.

For research, I pretty much have to try one every time I see it on the menu. I’m always interested in how each restaurant presents their affogato. My favorite variation was at our local ristorante, Borgo di Vione in Basiglio.

Made with their Torroncino Semifreddo, it is a delicious cylinder of gelato mixed with a tiny bit of crunchy bitter almond brittle. This affogato variation is not on the menu, but if you ask for it they will make it for you. I love it because it doesn’t melt as quickly as a simple scoop of gelato and also because I love crunchy  bits in my gelato. Yum yum yum.

Here’s an easy way to bring a tiny taste of Italy into your kitchen this week.

Affogato Ingredients:

1 scoop of Gelato

1 Shot of Espresso


  • I love using espresso cups for an affogato at home.
  • Freeze your bowl or espresso cup ahead of time.
  • Pre-Scoop your gelato into the frozen cup and freeze a few minutes more.
  • Try different flavor combinations. Vanilla is classic- but I have had pistachio and caffé and they are delicious.
  • Let espresso cool just slightly. You still want it hot, but not so hot it immediately turns your gelato into a puddle.
  • Pour the espresso over the gelato and eat immediately.


Now I’m off to search for a torroncino semifreddo recipe to try so I can replicate Borgo’s version! If you go there, tell Marco hello and please please please have some risotto for me too while you are there….

Buon Appetito!

xo- Heather

My Umbrian Panzanella |

My Umbrian Panzanella. {a recipe}

We had looked forward to returning to Umbria for months, as part of our final hurrah before moving back to America. I had carefully researched and handpicked the house we would rent near a little village we had previously visited and loved.My Umbrian Panzanella |

I had grand dreams in my head of mornings spent exploring nearby villages, and afternoons by the pool with a book. In my dream, I would cook supper in my Italian kitchen every night and we would sip our wine and eat our dinner on the terrace watching the sun set, letting the stress of the move slip away.

The house was exactly what I had hoped- large and rambling but comfortable and cozy with a great country kitchen, many great gathering spots inside and out to enjoy with others or be alone with a book and a glass of vino, heavy shutters to keep the heat out and ceiling fans to move the hot sticky July air. The pool was beautiful and had a view looking out over the valley and olive groves below. It was perfect.My Umbrian Panzanella |

What wasn’t in my daydream was getting sick that week. If I hadn’t been so ill, I probably would have wept about my misfortune. But sadly, Ben and I both were completely miserable and the best we could do was lay on the bed under that ceiling fan sipping Gatorade for much of the week. Ugh.

By the end of the week, I was starting to rally and managed to make one meal before heading back to Milan.

Panzanella Salad.

Panzanella is a Tuscan peasant dish using up stale bread and highlighting the produce of summer. To me, it’s the perfect summer meal. There are a million different ways of making Panzanella, each person (rightfully) loving their way best.

I’ve had Panzanella all over Italy and the Pacific Northwest. All of them have been completely different, and delicious in their own way.  I’ve been making it in my own kitchen for awhile now, and continue to change up my method + ingredients and try new things.

My Umbrian Panzanella | cafecarlson.comThis one was spectacular. Maybe because I hadn’t eaten all week and was starving, or maybe because for the first time I purposefully mixed up the bread method and really loved the outcome.

Using stale country bread, I cut part into cubes and toasted them- the other part I used the more traditional method of wetting the bread and tearing into small pieces.

Most bread in Tuscany + Umbria gets rock hard after a few days, which is why the original method calls for soaking your bread in water to soften it- squeezing out the water and then adding it to the tomatoes and their juices for more flavor.

My Umbrian Panzanella |

My Umbrian Panzanella | cafecarlson.comIt may not be traditional- but I love the heft and crunch of the toasted bread combined with all the other ingredients. One of my favorite panzanella type salads is at Dahlia Lounge in Seattle where they grill their bread over the fire.  YUM.

My Umbrian Panzanella |

My Umbrian Panzanella | cafecarlson.comPanzanella  (Bread + Tomato Salad)

Traditionally-  tomatoes, bread, olive oil and basil are the foundation of this salad. For my salad I usually include cucumbers and red onion because I love them and I like my salad to feel like a garden. This time I was trying to use up ingredients we had in the house, so I roasted some peppers on the stove top and threw them in- along with some fresh mozzarella that was in the fridge. It was delicious and a great way to have a one dish meal.

For the Salad:

3 Tomatoes, chopped (or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved)

1 loaf of day old Ciabatta or hearty country bread

1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced

1 English Cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 Red or Orange Bell Pepper, chopped (raw or roasted)

1 ball fresh Mozzarella, torn into bits  (optional)

Lots of Fresh basil, whole leaves or torn

For the Vinaigrette:

1/2 c. Olive oil

3 T. Red or White Wine Vinegar

1 shallot, minced

2 t. Lemon zest

Salt + Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a jar with lid and shake.

This is how I did the salad this time:

  • Cut 3/4 of the loaf of bread into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven or on the stovetop until lightly browned and crunchy. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  • For the other 1/4 of the loaf of bread, slice and dunk in a bowl of lukewarm water for as long as you dare- squeeze the water out of the bread with your hands and tear pieces off, adding it to the bowl of crunchy bread cubes.
  • Drizzle all the bread with the vinaigrette and let it soak up the flavors as you add the other veggies.
  • Add tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and peppers and toss with the bread.
  • Add torn basil and mozzarella last- tossing gently.
  • Let sit 15-30 minutes to mingle the flavors.
  • Taste and add additional olive oil, salt or pepper as needed.
  • Place in your favorite serving bowl or platter  + Serve at room temperature.

My Umbrian Panzanella | cafecarlson.comAnd that is the story of my Umbrian Panzanella….

We did manage to have dinner on the terrace that last night in Umbria, watching the sun set over the hills and olive groves. It was magical.

I didn’t want it to end- and since I was feeling better, I told Chris I would happily return to this house in a heartbeat. And then I tried to convince him that I totally needed a re-do trip to make up for these lost days.

Buon Appetito friends! Let me know if you make this, and what variations you like best.

xo- Heather

weekend wanderlust | seven.

weekend wanderlust |

Happy weekend friends! What are you up to?  We’ve been back in the US almost a month, and this is the first weekend that we have absolutely nothing planned. Is it weird that I am super excited about that? I think because of our months of being on the go-go-go I am thrilled to not have an agenda or anything to have to get out of my p.j.’s for. ;)

This week we hacked away at our to-do list, had dates with friends and continued on the doctor appointment catch up circuit. We are still enjoying being reunited with foods we have missed, (hello fish tacos, rye bread and BLT’s!) but I have started throwing some Italian favorites into the mix too. My favorite kitchen things are still on their adventure at sea, on a boat somewhere between Italy and Seattle- but I am loving being back in my kitchen with its full sized refrigerator, ice cubes and plentiful counter space.

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Repatriation: Life at two weeks.

Repatriation: Life at two weeks.

Repatriation: To return to your birthplace or country of origin after living abroad.

Week two felt very different. It was even busier than our first week back- with shopping for cars, dentist and orthodontist appointments, friends visiting and our repatriation workshop.

All 4 of us took this workshop through my husband’s employer. The kids were dreading it, I was looking forward to it until my week started feeling overwhelming, but we did it anyway- and I have to say I’m really glad we did.

The women who led our class were wonderful and took us through the day with much perception of our own situation, and thoughts and wisdom from their training and their own expat experiences. It was sort of like a debriefing of our time abroad and helped us have some perspective on the changes and feelings we will be experiencing as we settle into this new chapter of our lives.

Repatriation: Life at two weeks.
Along with seeing things from this angle and thinking of the future, it made me really come face to face with the fact that we are not visiting the U.S.

We are living here.

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Eating with the seasons {Caramelized peaches with yogurt, honey + pistachios}

Caramelized Peaches |
I won’t deny that I could have taken my Italian language lessons more seriously. And in retrospect, man do I really wish I had risen to the occasion. But that is a whole other story.

However, my foodie Italian is pretty good and I fell deeply in love with reading + ordering from Italian menus, and read cookbooks, recipes and such in Italian to practice.

I also fell in love with eating with the seasons- something Italy does extremely well that we could all learn from. The markets are constantly changing, depending on what is in season- and it is always a joy to walk through the rainbow colored stalls and buy what is fresh in that exact moment.

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One Week. |

Repatriation: One week in.

Right now the days are passing slowly like molasses. I know it won’t last long- but I am savoring this time.

One week. |

We’ve been back in America one week.

Our days are swirled together with appointments, unpacking, seeing friends, getting to know our house again and searching for things in the house. Oh, and many trips to our beloved Target. (4 trips in 5 days if you want to know the nitty gritty…)

It feels great.

The kids talk about picking out paint colors for their rooms, what food they want to reunite with, drivers education class, planning parties and their biggest wish is for a constant stream of friends moving in and out of the house.

My new motto for all of the above- One day at a time. Continue reading